Many women still associate breast cancer with a death sentence, but in reality early detection of the condition can lead to effective treatment and a positive prognosis.
Breast cancer brings with it emotional trauma as it strikes immediate fear into the hearts of women. Like many other types of cancers, breast cancer affects self-image. Breasts have always been seen as symbolising the femininity of women, and the thought of losing a breast makes most women very uncomfortable.
According to the South African Department of Health, the ignorance of many women of breast cancer has made it crucial to educate the general public about the dangers of this serious disease, particularly the need for regular breast self-examination and regular mammograms. There is a need for information about early detection and the various treatment options available.
Breast cancer is the most common female cancer in South Africa with one in 27 women diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime, according to the National Cancer Registry. The incidence of breast cancer among South African women is increasing, with more than 3 800 cases being diagnosed every year.
In the past, breast cancer mostly affected women over 40 years old but more and more younger women present with breast cancer. The key is to detect breast cancer early so that you can get treatment and have a better chance of survival.
Early detection is the key to survival
Health programme coordinators of the Department of Health work closely with local clinics and community health centres as well as private health service providers to promote early detection through regular screenings. Screenings for breast health (breast examinations) are conducted throughout the country.
There is no doubt that breast cancer can be fatal and should be treated as an extremely serious disease but, if detected in the early stages, there is a strong chance that it can be treated successfully, allowing the person to lead an active life. Early detection is vital and also provides more options in the way that breast cancer is treated. About 90% of sufferers survive for many years after diagnosis when breast cancer is detected in the early stages.
Purpose of Breast Cancer Awareness Month
The designation of October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month in South Africa reflects a nationwide drive by public and private healthcare structures to raise awareness of this debilitating disease across all races and class structures.
The Department of Health considers it essential to inform the public that by making themselves early available for treatment may result in more effective treatment, leading to a reduction in pain and suffering. Another crucial message that the Department’s campaign communicates to the general public is that taking early action can mean the difference between life and death. The campaign empowers the woman with knowledge, thus allowing her to make educated decisions about her health.
For those women who may not have easy access to a medical practitioner, the Department of Health hosts a series of awareness campaigns across South Africa. These will reach many rural areas. The idea is to inform women about breast cancer and to help them to detect the disease early on through self-examination.
Watch out for media reports on Breast Cancer Awareness Month to make sure that you receive the necessary information on the disease as well as the awareness campaigns in your community.
Our Employee Wellbeing Programme (EWP) is available 24 hours a day if you want to know more about the awareness of breast cancer.